Seattle, Washington and the Pacific Northwest is a wilderness lover’s dream destination. No shrinking violet when it comes to wild, raw natural beauty, we’re talking ancient, gnarly old-growth forests, more island coastline than you could paddle around in a lifetime, waterfalls draped in moss, rivers, streams and creeks aplenty.
Hikers in Hoh Rain Forest. Image Port of Seattle
What more could a wilderness-focused woman with her heart set on the great outdoors want for? Explore Washington’s wild side on a Pacific Northwest road trip or as part of an Alaskan cruise holiday, before or after you cruise the Inside Passage.
Add to Washington’s nature-filled landscape beauty with fun-filled attractions, deliciously decadent locally produced food, coffee and wine, and we’ve pretty much found paradise. We’ve selected 10 ways for fun-loving outdoor women to go seriously wild in Washington (though truth be known, there’s a gazillion more just like this).
Cruise to Alaska via the Inside from Passage from Seattle. Image Port of Seattle.
Seattle is rated the #1 North America Home Port by Cruise Critic and is the gateway to Alaska’s breathtaking beauty with its majestic mountains, glaciers and wildlife. Cruise from Seattle between April and October, with seven major cruise lines offering 200+ roundtrip sailings. Cruisers experience one of the world’s most specular sailaways, as ships cruise out of Elliott Bay treating passengers to panoramic views of Seattle, the Space Needle and snow-capped Mt. Rainier rising majestically into the clouds.
Mountain biking Washington’s high country in Bingen. Image Jason Hummel Photography
Back on land after cruising the Pacific Northwest coast, it’s time to stretch your legs a little. From rain forests to deserts and alpine meadows to magnificent waterways, an abundance of opportunities to get outside abound. Washington has it all! You’ll be hard-pressed to find another state with such beauty and diversity for spending time outdoors.
Thousands of trails beckon for hiking and mountain biking. The most famous of which is the iconic Pacific Coast Trail, spanning 4,265km from Mexico to Canada and 167km through Washington. But don’t stop there—in addition to the three magnificent national parks, all loaded with trails, check out the state and county parks as well. And, of course, is there anything as blissful as a beach walk?
Washington’s trails aren’t limited to hiking and walking. Many have been designed for cyclists with long paved stretches, like the Olympic Discovery Trail on the Olympic Peninsula or the Centennial Trail in Spokane.
Runner on the trails of Mt Rainier. Image Jason Hummel Photography
Think active volcano, glaciers, ancient forests and fields of wildflowers – Mt. Rainier National Park is all about nature at its most natural and is ready for adventurous women to explore all it has to offer.
Take a gondola ride 731 vertical metres to the summit where you’ll find breath-taking views of Mt. Rainier and the Cascade Mountains. Grab a bite to eat at the Summit House and dine at 2,100 metres above sea level.
Enjoy the views of North Cascades National Park. Image Andy Porter
One of the lesser visited U.S. national parks and snowiest places on earth, North Cascades National Park is nothing short of wild, showcasing jagged peaks crowned by more than 300 glaciers, deep forested valleys and cascading waterfalls casting a cooling spray across your face. Other than Alaska, North Cascades National Park has more glaciers than anywhere else in the USA.
Spot the abundance of wildlife, with 75 mammal species including wolves, grizzly bears, deer, and moose; 200 bird species including bald eagles and osprey, and spot salmon, rainbow trout and salamander in the clear streams and mountain lakes. The vast area has more than 640km of trails to explore with ranger-led tours to take you to some of the park’s epic viewpoints while you learn about its diverse ecosystem.
Orcas at the San Juan Islands . Image Jim Maya
Kayaking and SUP boarding are popular in the Puget Sound area, from the San Juan Island to Olympia along with mountain lakes. The San Juan Islands are ideal for Sea Kayaking with Orcas, with many pods inhabiting the area from spring to fall. Being naturally sociable creatures, they’re often found in large pods of 20 or more. Take an extended tour to visit areas commonly occupied by Humpback and Minke whales, as well as porpoise. Outfitters in these areas offer guided kayak tours for beginners through to advance paddlers, with options ranging from half day to five day expeditions.
Pike Place Markets Seattle. Image Port of Seattle
With Washington’s celebrated coffee culture to craft beer from the world’s largest hop-growing region to award-winning chefs specialising in farm/fish-to-table meals, you can happily drink and eat your way across the state. The culinary scene is on the cutting edge of trends across the country. Since Starbucks opened in 1971 at Pike Place Market, indie roasters have taken it to the next level with Seattle known as a world centre for coffee roasting. The state is third in beer production in the U.S. with over 400 breweries, thanks to local hops grown in Yakima.
There’s an old saying in the Northwest that when the tide is out, the table is set, indicating the importance of seafood in Washington’s coastal cuisine. Check out the Oyster Trail, spanning from Bellingham in the north through Puget Sound to the Hood Canal and on to the Long Beach Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean, highlighting a myriad of shellfish from Penn Cove mussels to Hama Hama oysters and Dungeness crab along the way. You can also harvest oysters, dig for clams or trap crab yourself!
Wine Tasting in Washington. Image Visit Woodinville
Wine tasting in Washington is purely magical. This is especially true when you’re ensconced in a lush vineyard, or beautifully appointed tasting room, with the winemaker pouring his or her best vintages and describing the details of what you’re tasting. Words like “hints of cherry, plum and red current, with a touch of smokey and earthy herbaceousness” roll off their tongue and you can almost taste what they’re describing. Curate your own wine adventure, exploring the vines by e-bike or taking a guided tour in a Tesla.
Walking the trails of Olympic National Park. Image Jason Hummel Photography
A vast wilderness area (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) with its raw, rugged Pacific coastline and the majestic Hoh Rain Forest, Olympic National Park is the ultimate setting for getting lost in nature, so take a few days to explore by staying in the park overnight.
At almost 1m acres including 117km of Pacific Ocean coastline, the park is the epicentre of the Olympic Peninsula. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve, almost 95% of the park is designated wilderness. The park is also home to 26 endemic species and is one of the most visited national parks in the USA.
Adventure opportunities range from hiking through one of the most impressive rainforests in the northern hemisphere, Hoh Rain Forest; reaching the summit of Hurricane Ridge (elevation of 1,600m) – a mountain citadel that puts you at the edge of the park’s jagged peaks; backpacking the 43km Enchanted Valley Trail and camping on rustic, driftwood-strewn beaches.
Stay in the heart of the park with cosy and scenic properties owned by Olympic National Park Lodges and Resort (Armark). Lake Quinault Lodge is a grand and rustic lodge built in 1926 on the edge of the lake with easily accessible hiking trails. Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort offers serene, evergreen surrounded cabins and the option to relax in natural hot springs while Log Cabin Resort is a rustic retreat with exceptional views of Lake Crescent.
The City of Seattle
Take on an urban adventure in the super walkable ‘Emerald city’, packed with unique and fun attractions, food and culture you won’t want to miss. Start at Pike Place Market, the centre of the hustle and bustle of this fast-paced city, where you can graze on snacks along the walkway of food stalls, buy a gorgeous fresh flower bouquet and take selfies with the fishmongers tossing salmon in the air or with famed Rachel the Pig.
Catch more excitement by purchasing a Seattle CityPASS. With this you can save over 45% at top attractions. Admission includes Seattle’s iconic Space Needle, with its astonishing 360-degree views of snow-capped mountains and glittering Puget Sound, and the Seattle Aquarium, where you’ll see adorable sea otters, graceful octopuses, luminous moon jellies and more. The pass includes three more attractions of your choice: Argosy Cruise Harbor Tour, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP), Chihuly Garden and Glass, and the Woodland Park Zoo.
Kayaking San Juan Islands. Image Jason Hummel Photography
Spoilt for choice when it comes to outdoor adventures, the mountains and coastlines are well worth exploring. Which is why when locals talk about playing in their pool they do not mean in their backyard. Instead, they pack their rubber boots and check for a low tide before heading to one of the beaches in the San Juan Islands and on the Olympic Peninsula. Here the small-town charm, rock pools, beachcombing and refreshing ocean air are the perfect recipe for a day of exploring the wild Pacific coast. You have truly embraced what it means to be Northwestern when the ocean, rivers, lakes, creeks, and stories of the “prettiest rocks and shells ever found” make up some of your best travel stories.
Hikers in Hoh Rain Forest. Image Port of Seattle
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